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A story of national growth does not simply recite the results of human endeavor: it is more deeply concerned with the character of the people discussed, and with the ideals, motives and methods underlying their acts.
Understanding of history is not gained through mere acquaintance with what was done. It is obtained by comprehension of the purpose and manner of the doing. Those individual figures and throngs of mankind who inhabit the pages of written history should not be manikins or mummies, but living men enacting their daily deeds, vitalized with the spirit that moved them while they were indeed here. We should be able to see them; to hear their cries of fear or delight; to smile at their revelry; feel anger at their evil and deceit, regret at their blunders, pride in their worthy accomplishments. Only by coming thus close to the past—by knowing it to be part of our own lives instead of looking upon it as a museum of curiosities—can we apply its value as a guide to ourselves.
Doubtless it is no longer possible to tell in words and pictorially portray, with reasonable completeness, the historical conditions considered in these volumes. That this should be so is cause for regret, since the story of those pioneer ideas, struggles and devices out of which grew a nation in the social and economic sense rather than in a political sense—is the foundation history of the country. We have now reached a period sufficiently removed from the pioneer constructive era to see it in its entirety, and, through our ability in that regard, to.profit somewhat by the experiences of those earlier generations. Theyjust as we of to-day—displayed occasional wisdom in their joint undertakings; were often careless; sometimes quite blind; and at times permitted themselves to be swayed by desires whose indulgence wrought harm to them. But in one particular-during their upbuilding of a transportation system—they differed widely from present-day Americans. They sought to create facilities for movement and communication which should meet previous and desperate needs; they built for themselves and their own short day. We are beginning to do much more than that. We are looking ahead, both for the sake of ourselves and for those who are to come after us.
It therefore appears that the underlying thought and basic plan of the inexperienced pioneers, out of which grew the system they made and bequeathed to us—and which we are still using—is not altogether such a thought and economic plan as fits our later desire and determination. A conflict between old conditions and new ideas has resulted. Various methods and practises which developed out of the pioneer procedure have been outgrown, and no longer fit the age into which they have survived. We are now seeking to rid ourselves of the undesirable parts of our inheritance, with resolution so to do, and are likewise trying to avoid the making of similar mistakes while dealing with the same large subject.
It follows that a study of the pioneers, and of that work of theirs which has come to be of such importance to ourselves, may be of aid to us amid our present problems. If the following pages present some past conditions whose intimate relationship to the world of to-day could otherwise have been forgotten, and if they suggest the application of certain principles to our present and future affairs, then the work of preparing them will have been repaid. Nations—like individual men-must struggle over the road of the pilgrim's progress.
In preparing the accompanying volumes reliance has been placed, wherever possible, on original and contemporaneous material for text and illustration. Sources for the text have been files of early newspapers; various collections of manuscripts and documents in libraries, historical societies and elsewhere; diaries, letters and printed chronicles of pioneers; narratives in state and local histories; maps ; state and governmental records; and information contained in earlier publications of a particular sort, the titles to some of which are given in an appended bibliography
The illustrative material, with its attendant notes, is selected and arranged to form a flowing and connected story of its own, independent of the text. Yet at the same time the pictorial narrative is designed as a commentary on and explanation of the text. Technical description of the original prints and other material will be found in a proper place.
I wish to acknowledge my obligation to my friends Carl Burger, George Marriott, John Price Jones, Charles Fuess, Griffis Rhys Jenkyn, Franklin Harris, George Mather Richards, Frank P. O'Brien, Dexter Cook, Hillard H. Weer, Thomas Embly, Phanor Eder, Edward Broderick and Leslie Quirk for aid in connection with the preparation of this work.
My thanks are due to the American Antiquarian Society; to the British Museum; the Congressional Library; the State Libraries of Indiana, New Jersey, New